Be thankful this Kansas-Illinois matchup didn’t happen in 2004 or 2005. You might’ve gotten sick of all the Bill Self vs. Bruce Weber hype.
As is, it’s just another angle for a second-round NCAA tournament game. Even if there is some random history there.
Self left Illinois in 2003 after three seasons in which the Illini finished first, first and second in the Big Ten. Needless to say, fans weren’t happy to see him go. They also weren’t that psyched about Weber, either. He held a “mock funeral” in effort to help the team move on from Self, which had mixed results.
What helped more was reaching the 2005 national title game.
“It was really a compliment to him, to be honest — how he captured the players, the fans, what he did at Illinois,” Weber said Saturday. “And somehow I had to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to move forward. We’ve got to go down the road.'”
Down the road is now Sunday.
No. 1 seed Kansas (33-2) takes on the 9-seed Illinois (20-13) in a game that’ll start off about the coaches, but should quickly morph into a showdown between two of the game’s best offenses. Both teams feature several skilled offensive players capable of hitting hot streaks and exploiting defensive matchups.
The Jayhawks have the edge, but the Illini shouldn’t be overlooked, especially after their first-round win over Illinois. They shot better than they have during any game since Jan. 6 – and it’s not like they’d been throwing up bricks. They just clicked.
So will the coach vs. coach story provide any more motivation than normal? Or is it just two teams that want to win? I go with the latter.
“I’m sure there’s an extra edge for any coach that’s playing their old school,” Kansas senior Brady Morningstar said. “Whether you let that show to your team or not, that’s the coach’s decision. But coach Self’s always the same. He’s going to prepare us as well as he can to get us ready to play.”
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